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Posted on: February 7, 2020

New Hands Free Law Starts February 23, 2020

Hands Free Art from Mass Chiefs of Police

The Wellesley Police Department wants you to know about an important change to cell phone/electronic device usage by drivers in Massachusetts.

On February 23, 2020, the new “Hands Free” law will go into effect in Massachusetts.  The law essentially prohibits the driver of a motor vehicle (or bicyclists) from Hands Free Art from Mass Chiefs of Policeholding a mobile (electronic) device or phone while driving in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  All operation of the mobile device has to be in a ‘hands free’ manner.   Here’s a quick review of the law:

For drivers 18 years of age and older who are DRIVING the motor vehicle:

You cannot use a mobile electronic device while driving unless the device is in the ‘hands free’ mode.  You cannot hold, touch, or support a mobile device while driving except to activate the hands free mode (answering or ending a call), sometimes referred to as the ‘one swipe’ rule.

You cannot read or view text, images, or video displayed on a mobile device, EXCEPT when the mobile device is used for GPS navigation purposes.  However, (and this is a big however) if the mobile device is being used for GPS navigation, the device HAS to be mounted or affixed to a windshield, dashboard, or center console, in a manner that will not interfere with the driving of the vehicle. 

Bottom Line:  If you use your phone for navigation you can look at it, but the device has to be mounted somewhere safe.  Holding the device in your hand and using the GPS is not allowed.

There is one exception to the law.  In an emergency, you can use your mobile device without the hands free option.  Emergencies are defined by the law as the following circumstances:

 A vehicle is disabled and help is needed (police, tow truck).

Medical assistance or attention is required.

Police, Fire, or other emergency services are needed for the personal safety of the operator, passenger, or to ensure the safety of the public.

A disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway and the driver is calling for assistance.

Drivers under the age of 18 (Junior Operators) are not allowed to use a phone or mobile electronic device at all while operating a motor vehicle, even in hands free mode.

Penalties:

Until March 31, 2020, drivers who violate this law will be issued a warning.  After March 31, 2020, drivers who violate the Hands Free Law could receive a $100 fine the first time.  A second offense could result in a $250 fine, -plus- a mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program.  Third and subsequent offenses are a $500 fine, insurance surcharge, and another mandatory distracted driving educational program. 

Junior Operators face the above fines plus suspension of your driver’s license. 

Photo credit:  Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association

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